Rebels’ Luke optimistic going into third season

By W. BRIAN HALE, Eagle Sports Writer
Posted 7/16/19

HOOVER — The 2018 season for the Ole Miss Rebels was not one fans of the program will remember fondly.

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Rebels’ Luke optimistic going into third season

Posted

HOOVER — The 2018 season for the Ole Miss Rebels was not one fans of the program will remember fondly.

The Rebels entered the year with a ban on postseason play thanks to an infractions ruling by the NCAA. The team’s play on the field was less than stellar — the offense cruised to be one of the nation’s most prolific and finished 9th in total yards. But the defense was a disaster — ranked 121st nationally in yardage allowed and gave up a stunning 41 points to FCS school Southern Illinois. Ole Miss finished the year 5-7.

Head coach Matt Luke is eager to put the lack of postseason opportunity and the struggles of the past two seasons firmly in the past, stressing a new outlook and feeling of optimism prevailing throughout the team.

“I think our fans are excited about it. I know our players are excited about it and I am excited about it. To have the opportunity to walk into a living room and not have a cloud hanging over your head, I think you’re going to see an immediate impact on the recruiting trail,” Luke said. Regaining the offensive firepower that was on display in 2018 won’t be easy. Ole Miss replaces three offensive linemen, three wide receivers and SEC passing yardage leader Jordan Ta’amu, as well as welcoming in offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez.

“Offensively, you’re going to see a lot of new faces. but I really like the way we’re heading. I think even though we’re going to be young, I think we are going to be talented and fun to watch,” Luke said. “I was very, very impressed with coach Rodriguez this spring, not only in implementing his offense but seeing the attitude and toughness he’s instilling in that side of the ball.”

Defensively, mass changes were needed to the anemic unit, and plenty were made.

Mike MacIntyre arrives to take over at the defensive coordinator spot and has installed a 3-4 defense to help play more into the Rebels’ strengths.

Luke has been pleased with MacIntyre’s work and predicts much more solid play from Ole Miss defensively.

“Defensively, you’re going to see a huge change. Mike and I have worked together for several years and I knew he was a great teacher, but he really enjoyed seeing the way our defense bought into this system. We got a bunch of guys that played a lot on that side of the ball and quite frankly, they are tired of hearing how bad they are,” Luke said. “You really saw them playing with a chip on their shoulder this spring and I think when we take the field against Memphis in the opener, you’re going to see a much-improved defense.”